Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

 When you set such a high standard at first, it can often be hard to move yourself from the shadow of that achievement or have constant comparisons to that when regarding further achievements. Surely, no one knows this better than Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, who since the release of classic albums like 1993's Siamese Dream and 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness has never been able to have fans and critics look past those albums as a standard. It means that Corgan's more recent attempts to try more different musical efforts with a totally re-vamped lineup has left him with less positive feedback regarding his latest work. But with Corgan's absolute defiance to return to re-creating Siamese Dream and the effort on new album Oceania, perhaps even the most stubborn of 90's alt rock fans ought to start paying attention again.

 With a spacey opening into the album on Quasar, Corgan effectively proves that his desire to do more than just screechy riff-based rock songs is as prominent as ever. Yes many may weep at the prospect but with the sheer level of grandeur set up as warm grungy riffs and flourishing synthesizers melt together to create a strong range of melodies, it should be beyond you and you should be entranced by the fresh sound of atmospheric grace.

 The band bring out their ever-wide range of musical influences across the album and there is a lot of progressive influence to be found as shades of Rush can be seen in the captivating Panopticon which proves itself to be a song that welcomes listeners to blissfully float into it's centre with open arms. This influence can also be found in the more dramatic performance of The Celestials which grabs you by the throat with it's strings-led delicacy.

 Even the darker more sinister moments of the album carry this soothing progressive style, with the stern demeanor of the album's title track is filled with spacey musical layerings that one can lose themselves in a Blue Oyster Cult sort of way. The contrast of the nine-minute epic comes with the further influence from more classical performers as the acoustic led sections can only bring up memories of The Rolling Stones, while One Diamond, One Heart sees this textured progressive element become infused with the kind of flourishing synthpop that reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys.

 Indeed, the band do reach out to lesser-experienced territory on Oceania however they remain very much capable of rocking out. The anthemic buzz of life-affirming power punk melodies on Pinwheels and The Chimera prove that the Smashing Pumpkins can still write a big rock song with big riffs and an even bigger impact on listeners in their life-affirming beauty. Plus, with the unpolished shoegaze influence on Glissandra shows that distorted production lives on within the Pumpkins.

 So, indeed, as everyone is most likely to agree, this album probably won't touch the glories of Siamese Dream but it's realistically time we stop the constant comparison between these albums. Billy Corgan has moved on to making a new style of spacey immersive alternative rock and if he's previously had trouble in trying to introduce it upon listeners, Oceania is now the perfect opportunity for Corgan and the new Smashing Pumpkins to really show the world what they're made of.

Smashing Pumpkins' Oceania is out now via EMI.

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